And whilst the 30-year-old isn't expected to thrive once race time comes around in terms of final standing, Patrick has already been one of the biggest winners from the week's racing action, and her future in the sport has been solidified for years to come as a result of it.
Few could believe their eyes when they saw Patrick's name on top of the standings at the end of qualifying. Names like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth—these were the drivers that we'd expect to see dominated the standings prior to the race time.
Not the rookie sensation.
She wasn't even expected to show up on the radar.
Yet after a blistering lap and the media circus that has followed Patrick since, the rookie has quickly become the talk of the town ahead of the Daytona 500.
She is the talk, not in terms of necessarily being the favorite for the race (for that she most certainly is not), but in terms of her renewed chances at long-term success in NACAR competition.
Patrick may have the chance to have a long and successful career—especially given her age and potential—but she hasn't proven it yet on the track—not compared to many drivers anyway.
While she is still several wins away from being considered one of the true stars of NASCAR, Patrick is heading in the right direction.
After the Daytona 500, Patrick's future in the sport can only go up.
Nobody expects her to actually win the race—much like nobody expected her to win qualifying—so there aren't any expectations on her performance this weekend.
Should she win, she'll most likely be heralded as the new sensation of sport and lauded like the Tim Tebow of NASCAR racing (or something like that).
Should she churn out a strong performance that sees her finish inside the top 10, she'll certainly earn the respect of a number of other drivers. Moreover, she'll prove that she is more than just hype and anticipation.
She'll prove that she can compete with the "big boys."
And if neither happens, and Patrick finishes with just a mediocre finish in the 2013 Daytona 500, then she'll still have a bright future ahead of her.
Just as one race isn't going to change her from being an unheralded rookie to a legend of the sport, it also isn't going to undo her strong performance this week.
The attention she's garnered (and will continue to do so) for NASCAR is second to none. Her qualifying lap will stand as the frontrunner, and her record of becoming the first woman to claim pole at Daytona will stand forever—regardless of how she races this weekend.
A poor showing at the Daytona 500—which it seems is likely—isn't going to undo any of what Patrick has been able to achieve this week, both on and off the track. She'll still be the hottest name in the sport for a long time to come and will continue to attract a strong following for the competition.
Which NASCAR, as a whole, should be eternally grateful for, even if she doesn't win this weekend.
How do you think Danica Patrick will fare in the Daytona 500 this week?
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